Thursday Photography Group - Our City Our Stories

Regent Park Focus Youth Media Arts Centre had the privilege of co-ordinating our own workshop for the Our City Our Stories – powered by Canon urban youth photography contest. The workshop was held between October 22nd and December 14th, 2009 with two-hour sessions organized and run by photographer Nick Kozak. The 8 sessions covered three essential parts to documentary photography; study, shooting, and editing.

Students spent several sessions observing and giving feedback on examples of documentary photography presented by the instructor. Slideshows were watched from the famous Mediastorm multimedia website, news photographs were viewed on Reuters and other news outlets. Students also signed up for and viewed projects and individual photos on the popular photo sharing site Flickr. The youth were given minimal instructions on how to ‘read’ photographs and what makes a strong photograph. Instead, through viewing examples students acquired basic knowledge for themes and composition. Students were asked to give feedback on photo stories shown to them all the while brainstorming and exploring with the instructor, potential stories they might want to tell with their photos.

The workshop moved into the shooting stage with a goal that each student photograph outside of workshop hours after being instructed on how to properly use the camera. The challenge is inherent as it usually takes a long time for people to become comfortable enough to photograph stories in their daily lives. The instructor made sure that the workshop would allow for shooting sessions within the group sessions. On several occasions students went out with the instructor in the immediate area to photograph Regent Park life and each other within this environment. Results were quite successful and one student decided to make use of his photos for his final project for the contest submission. As students became more and more comfortable shooting on their own time the editing process became the main objective.


The final sessions were all about editing photographs keeping in mind the need to tell a story with 9 images, as stipulated by the Our City, our Stories contest. Week after week students returned with new photos which were uploaded and edited by them using Adobe Lightroom software. Students were assisted by the instructor but soon began to edit and post-process with minimal help. The main challenge here was to make sure students had photographed all angles of their stories; that each of the 9 photos finally chosen would add something new, something valuable to the project. If the instructor and student deemed the story incomplete then the student would be asked to take more photographs. It was very important that all students understand the need to photograph as much as possible and on as many occasions as possible and then narrow down to 9 final photos that would be most powerful in telling their stories.

In the final session students sized their photographs as stipulated by Our City, Our Stories, made some final adjustments, and uploaded to the contest website. Now we’re all keeping our fingers crossed!
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